The Grace of Incorruption
Essays on Orthodox Faith & Poetics by Donald Sheehan
Forthcoming from Paraclete Press in April 2015
“In the fourth century, when the Nicene Creed was composed by two separate councils some sixty years apart, the Greek word employed by both councils to describe God the Father was poietes, “poet,” usually rendered in English as “Maker” … To repeatedly profess our firm belief in “one God, Father all-mighty, Poet of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible,” is, I think, to disclose how very weakly and narrowly we usually conceive the essence of poetry. And in the light of the Creed, to conceive in weakness the essence of poetry is simultaneously to conceive in weakness the essence of God.”
Poet Christopher Merrill writes of this book in his Foreword: “Scripture, patristic writings, and the liturgy—these profoundly shaped the last third of Don Sheehan’s life, during which he translated the Septuagint Greek Psalter and wrote this book, which unites his literary training, his poetic imagination, and the fruits of his prayer life. The Grace of Incorruption explores the mystery, music, and connections between faith and poetry, with uncommon wisdom . . .
“The first half of this book, ‘Reflections on Life, Literature, and Holiness,’ examines works by Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Saints Ephraim and Isaac, Frost, Salinger, as well as contemporary poets like Jane Kenyon, Sydney Lea, and Nicholas Samaras, raising questions about the nature of penitence, prayer, personhood, freedom, depression, and the right relationship to the earth.
“The second half of the book . . . addresses the Psalms, focusing on the Great Psalm (118 in Orthodoxy, 119 in Western Christianity), an alphabetic acrostic that spells out God’s plan for Creation . . . ‘The artistic technique of Psalm 118 can . . . be best understood as the poetics of resurrection’—the poetics, that is, that came to govern the lifework of a singular man, blessed with faith and learning, who brings us the good news of life everlasting.”